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Ethnic Studies: State Council Supports Bill to Make It a Requirement

At March State Council, delegates voted to support AB 331 (Medina, D-Riverside), which would require each school district that doesn’t already have an Ethnic Studies curriculum to offer a course beginning in 2021-2022. AB 331 would mandate that an Ethnic Studies class be added to high school graduation requirements in the 2023-2024 school year.

“At a time when the national climate drives divisiveness and fear of otherness, Ethnic Studies can play a critical role in increasing awareness and understanding,” said Assemblyman Jose Medina, the bill’s author, in an earlier statement. Medina himself is a former high school ethnic studies teacher.

Changing demographics play a big role in why school curricula should incorporate ethnic studies. California has one of the largest and most diverse student populations in the nation. Ethnic minorities account for over 71 percent of the student population, with more than 90 languages spoken in district schools. Because of this, it is vitally important that students build knowledge of the various racial and ethnic groups in our state.


“At a time when the national climate drives divisiveness and fear of otherness, Ethnic Studies can play a critical role in increasing awareness and understanding.”


Assemblyman Jose Medina 

Former Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill in 2016 that required the state to develop a standards-based model curriculum in Ethnic Studies, adaptable to communities’ unique demographics, that all school and districts would be encouraged to offer. The California Department of Education subsequently established a 2020 Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum Advisory Committee, which includes CTA Vice President Theresa Montaño and other college professors, teachers and district administrators. The committee has already met twice this year. The final meeting is scheduled in late April.

CTA believes the value of Ethnic Studies is clear. Ethnic Studies promote respect and understanding among races, supports student success and teaches critical thinking skills. Ethnic Studies also provide students with the opportunity to learn about their respective culture in the context of California’s history.

Requiring Ethnic Studies to be taught in high schools helps cultivate a classroom environment that is accepting of diversity. Just as it is critical for young people to learn about their history, it is also important for them to feel like they can contribute to their communities. Multiple studies have shown that Ethnic Studies help high school students improve their academic and social outcomes; college students who took even one Ethnic Studies course increased their attendance and graduated at a higher rate than students who took none — and Ethnic Studies majors graduated at a much higher rate than the general student population. One educator suggested that this is because Ethnic Studies faculty and coursework engage, empower and connect students and help them understand their stake and civic role in our communities.

CTA supports AB 331 knowing it will help close the achievement gap and better prepare Californian youth to be college- and career-ready. For more information, see
cta.org/legislation

Artwork courtesy Ethnic Studies Now Coalition.

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